Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay

 

Whenever I saw the big white and pink Chaplin’s Dairy truck pull into the yard, I had only one thing on my mind; and that was their delicious chocolate milk.  It came in small pint-sized glass bottles, and had a round, waxed cardboard cap on the top to seal it in. The cap had a little tab, so that you could pull it off of the bottle, and the pint bottle was the perfect size for small eager hands.  After the cap was off, I was just seconds away from tipping the bottle and tasting the richest, creamiest chocolate milk ever produced.

Chaplin's Dairy milk tab

 

Our Dad worked for Chaplin’s Dairy for decades.  He drove one of the big pink and white trucks, and had a regular ‘route’ of customers in Perth.  He used a big, black, metal carrier to transport milk from the back of the truck to the customer’s front door.  The carrier had eight slots, and each slot held a quart bottle of milk.  He also had a book of order slips. It was a small, thick pad of paper about three by six inches, stapled together at the end.  There was a top sheet that was numbered, a small sheet of carbon paper under that, and a blank sheet at the bottom.  On the top copy, Dad wrote the customer’s name, address, and what they had ordered, along with the total price and that was the customer’s copy.  Because each order was written on top of the sheet of carbon paper, the Dairy had a carbon copy underneath for their records.

Once in a while Dad would bring me to the Dairy and I was fascinated to see the many steps that the milk went through in order to end up on someone’s table.  It was fun to sit in the big truck so high up, and the ride was very different from our car at home.  The truck bounced up and down a lot more, and made a lot of noise, as we drove down the lane, and up the third line toward Perth.  It was neat to look outside, and see how much lower the other cars were on the road.  Every time we’d go over a bump or hill the truck would bounce again, and of course there were no seat belts in those days, so it was quite exciting.

We’d drive along until we could see Nick and Doreen Webber’s house at the corner, and we’d begin to slow down.  Just a bit past Webber’s house we turned right, and Chaplin’s Dairy was a small building on the right side of the road, just up from the corner at Glen Tay.

We’d park the truck, and I would follow Dad into the Dairy.  As soon as he opened the door I could see all of the steam in the air.  It was really, really, humid.  The inside of the building was grey and concrete and the floor was always wet.  Sometimes we’d see one of the Chaplin brothers Cameron or John, and they always wore big rubber boots and the steam rose up all around them.

Because the milk came in glass bottles in those days, a lot of the steam was produced from the big machine that they used to sterilize the bottles.  When the customers were finished with their milk, they would rinse their bottles (hopefully!), leave them on their doorstep for Dad, and he would bring them back to the Dairy that evening.   John or Cameron Chaplin would take the empty bottles and put them through the bottle washer.  The bottle washer washed, rinsed, sterilized, and then rinsed again, so the bottles were sparkling clean and ready for the next batch of milk.

The next machine filled the bottles, then capped them with the little waxed cardboard caps.  There was a large room toward the back of the Dairy, and that was a cold storage room, where the freshly bottled milk was kept.  Most of the time when I visited I saw them bottling homogenized, 2 per cent, skim, and chocolate milk. Sometimes, one of the Chaplins, would hand me a pint bottle of chocolate milk, right off of the filling machine.  I would gladly accept, and thought to myself that if Mother was here she would say that I was going to spoil my supper.  Dad never said anything though, because he knew how much I loved Chaplin’s chocolate milk.

Chaplin’s Dairy was a family business.  The dairy was started by Delbert Chaplin in the early 1900s, and his brother Edgar Chaplin also worked in the business. The Chaplin family owned a large 300 acre farm at R.R 4 Perth and Delbert demonstrated his ingenuity by setting up a method to process their milk from their Holstein herd.  At first he operated the business from their farm, but later in 1935 he built the Dairy building at Glen Tay corners.

Delbert Chaplin

1920  – Edgar Chaplin, (Uncle of John and Cameron Chaplin)

When Chaplin’s Dairy began to deliver milk from the new location at Glen Tay, the quarts of milk were just 5 cents each, and it was delivered by horse and wagon. The milk was not bottled at that time but was distributed to the customers from a large tank at the back of the wagon.  The customer would leave a container on their front step or front porch, and Delbert or Edgar would ladle the milk out of the larger can with a pint or quart measure.

The Chaplin farm was producing an average of 3,000 quarts of milk per day and John, Cameron and their brother Don processed the milk and delivered it in the Perth area.

Chaplin's early milk bottles

The demand for their milk increased, and they expanded, and made arrangements to have five neighbouring farms supply their business with additional milk.  They were also producing chocolate milk and buttermilk at that time.  They made butter as well, but only to supply their own families and it wasn’t for sale to the public.

Chaplin's truck

L to R: Gordon Chaplin, (Royce Frith seated in truck), Donald ‘Don’ Chaplin

By 1945 the sons had taken over the dairy farm and Don took on the responsibility of managing the farm, but their father continued to be active at the Dairy.   They continued to expand their business and operated for many decades.  They expanded their product line to include grape juice and orange juice.They were successful and respected in the community and were known for their high quality products throughout the Perth area.

Tim Stafford: ” When I turned nine, Mom told Dad that she could no longer put up with  me on Saturdays because of my bad behavior.  That’s the ‘how and why’ of me working with Dad, on the milk truck for Chaplin’s Dairy.

I wasn’t much help at first, but he gave me fifty cents and a chocolate bar purchased at McGlade’s service station, on Gore Street.

Later, when I got my driver’s license, John Chaplin hired me and another high school student, Don Lindsay, to do his milk route, and the Christie Lake cottage route, while he covered the other routes and the ‘inside’ workers for summer vacations.

We were making $25.00 a week, plus we were expected to eat at the restaurants we delivered to on a rotating basis.  The daily meal was paid for by Chaplin’s Dairy.  John Chaplin’s favourite restaurant was Wong’s Chinese, but Don and I preferred ‘The Bright Spot’, where Muz MacLean, Hillis Conroy’s son-in-law worked.  We usually ordered grilled cheese, french fries, and cokes.”

Chaplin's quart milk bottles

Quart milk bottles –  1960s

 

Roger Stafford“I am not positive, but I believe I was about 12 when I started working Saturdays and summers with Dad on the milk truck. The first Summer I worked with Dad, our brother, Tim, was working with Grant or Gary Chaplin.

They were delivering to the stores and restaurants in Perth, and to summer camps and cottages. They drove to Christie Lake to deliver to Cavanagh’s (general store) and the Lodges (Norvic Lodge and Arliedale Lodge) . I believe Tim had been Dad’s helper on the milk truck, prior to me starting to work with Dad.  

We used to be at the dairy by 7:00 a.m., and usually got home between 17:30 and 18:00 in the evenings. When I first started with Dad, we delivered milk out of the back of a pickup with a tarp over the glass bottles to protect them from the sun and cold.  Milk was 23 cents a quart bottle, and 25 cents for chocolate milk. We also had pints and half pints in glass bottles. Whipped cream and buttermilk were also carried on the truck. It was not long after I started that we used an enclosed truck to deliver out of. It was much easier, but it had no air conditioning, and a piss-poor heater. When I worked six days a week in the summer, I earned $6. for the week.”

In 1970 Don decided to sell the farm and a few years later in 1974 John and Cameron made the decision to stop processing the milk themselves and just be distributors.  In total, John worked for 42 years in the business and Cameron for 30. At that time Chaplins were one of the last small dairies that still processed their own milk.  They began to sell milk for Clark’s Dairies in Ottawa.  John felt that there were too many changes taking place at that time and that the cost would be too prohibitive to continue processing their own milk.

The milk industry in the 1970s was changing from glass bottles to paper cartons,although most customers preferred the taste of milk in glass bottles. The process of returning and washing the bottles was becoming too time consuming, and too expensive. The federal government was also insisting that businesses use the metric system.  This conversion would have meant purchasing new equipment because their milk was sold in pints and quarts, and they would have to begin selling in litres.

At the point in time when John and Cameron decided to sell the business, they had 1,000 customers, and a modern fleet of trucks, doing 12 runs per day, with four salesmen.  They also offered a complete line of dairy products which included cottage cheese, eggs and also several types of juice. Their last delivery was made by Cameron, on Sept. 17, 1977 and their milk at that time, was 65 cents a quart.

Chaplin’s Dairy was sold that year to Bill McConachie.  Bill was formerly a driver for many years who brought the milk from Ottawa.  His plan was to begin delivering milk to Smiths Falls, to increase his market.

It’s likely difficult for the younger generation to believe that milk was delivered door to door each day, or that it had no expiry date stamped on the bottle.  The milk was fresh from the cow either that day, or the day before, processed at Chaplin’s Dairy, and delivered right to your door step.  There was no need for an expiry date.  It’s also interesting that they managed to have a pretty successful recycling process of sterilizing the bottles and getting them back on the trucks by the next morning.  That was all accomplished without ‘blue bins’ and recycling plants.

Did the milk taste better in a glass bottle?  Yes, it did; and anyone who has drank it from a bottle will tell you the same thing.  We certainly drank enough of the stuff at our house to offer an opinion on that.  One of the benefits of having your father work as a milk man is that he brought home enough milk for the family, each night, in his milk carrier.  When you are raising five children, that’s a lot of milk.  We were fortunate to have had such fresh milk each and every day and we never ran out.

Chaplin's pint milk bottle

One Pint, glass milk bottle, 1960s

Although the work wasn’t easy, I believe that Dad enjoyed his customers in Perth, and the quick chats had each day.  Whenever Mother and Dad shopped at the IGA on Wilson Street, customers from his milk route would often come up to say ‘Hello’, and exchange a few words.  Dad was well liked, and at Christmas his customers showered him with gifts.  He received many, many boxes of chocolates, packs of cigarettes and one and two dollar bills in lovely Christmas cards.  He was always late getting home Christmas Eve, and part of the reason was that his customers took a few extra minutes to wish him a Merry Christmas, and give him their gifts.

We were fortunate to have grown up at a time when there were family businesses, producing high quality products, and selling them door to door.  At one time we had a milk man, an egg man- (Mr. Greer), and a bread man, delivering right to our door.

As the years passed by, many of the small family businesses have closed down, one by one, and in many cases our products are produced far away by people we don’t know. There are dates stamped on the products now telling us when they are destined to ‘expire’.  We often have no idea what processes are used to make some of the things that we eat, and so we purchase them on faith alone.  Gone are the days when we always knew what we were eating, and even knew the people that made the goods.

Now, we are left with the memories of Chaplin’s, our small, local dairy in Glen Tay. It was a place where we could stop by for a visit and be greeted by John, Don, or Cameron in their big rubber boots, clouds of steam rising all around them. With a big smile they’d pluck a pint of chocolate milk off of the line, and hand it to a little girl from down the road. Their products were made with pride and care, and they were confident that their customers would be satisfied.  For years, Chaplin’s Dairy was a well known business in our community, and their products were enjoyed in Perth and area homes for many, many decades.

 

 

 

(excerpts from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line’) 

LC Kid

Memories of working at Chaplin’s Dairy – my brothers Tim Stafford and Roger Stafford, excerpts from the book ‘Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen’

R and R bookmark image

photos:  Stafford family collection,  Perth Remembered

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

 

Maple Trailblazers: Founding Families of Lanark County’s Maple Legacy

maple syrup capital

Did you know that the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth, Ontario back in the 1970s?

The story that follows is dedicated to the Lanark County families who played such a significant role, back in the early days, leading up to this annual festival in Perth: Andrew and George Korry, Bowes family of Glen Tay, Ernie and Evelyn Miller family of Glen Tay, Robert McEwen of Prestonvale, Ken VanAlstine of Maberly, Leonard and Tom Adam of McDonald’s Corners, Brien and Marion Paul west of Hopetown, Lanark, James ‘Carman’ and Edna Gibson of Dalhousie Township, Don and Marion Dodds of Clayton, George Coutts of Rideau Ferry, Wheeler family of McDonald’s Corners, and Fulton family of Pakenham to name a few.

Taffy on the Tay

Years ago, many of the local farmers produced maple syrup. Some made just enough for their families, and for others it was a supplement to their farm income, at a time of year that was less busy, than during the summer months. There were also a few dealers in the area that sold sugar bush supplies – Max Miller of Snow Road, Percy Drysdale of McDonald’s Corners, and W.J. Ballantyne in Lanark. James Brothers Hardware and the Co-Op in the town of Perth also sold supplies for maple production. Labels for the bottles were often printed by ‘The Perth Courier’.

James Brothers edit

The Korry family farm was located across the road from our farm.  They owned a medium sized sugar bush, and produced enough syrup to sell locally. Andrew Korry’s son-in-law John Chaplin sold it through his business – Chaplin’s Dairy, door to door, to their customers on the milk routes. Andrew and his son George were very busy for several weeks each spring making syrup, and my brother Tim Stafford worked with them in the bush one season. Extra help was always welcome. They used a team of horses, with a tank mounted on the sleigh, to draw the sap back to the evaporator, at the sugar shack; typical of many other producers at that time.

maple-sap-collocting

The Bowes and the Miller families of Glen Tay also produced their own syrup. I recall  that Art Bowes used to tap quite a number of trees in the mid-sixties. Their land was known as Tayview farm, and it straddled the Tay River -a beautiful setting. At that time they had about 300 acres including hay fields, pastures, and of course maple bushes. Art’s son Doug traveled along with us on our school bus each day in the 1960s, and he often spoke about helping his Dad back in the bush each spring.

Art Bowes maple

spile

The Miller family’s farm, known as Tayside was owned by Ernest ‘Ernie’ Miller and his wife Evelyn (Mather). The Miller family arrived from Scotland in 1809, and their farm was purchased by Ernie’s great grandfather Dodds in 1858. Their kids were Diane, Nancy, John and Ruth. Evelyn was a lovely, soft-spoken lady, and she was my first 4H club leader. I also recall that Ernie was tapping about 1,500 trees back in the sixties, and had about 30 acres of maple woods. Ernie was a forward thinker, and one of his ideas at that time was that sap should be gathered by trucks from each farm, and taken to a large central evaporator – similar to the way that milk was trucked to cheese factories. It seemed through the years that Ernie was into everything. When he wasn’t farming he wrote history books, he researched genealogy, he worked with young people, and it was no surprise to me when he was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.

Ernie Miller

Ernest Miller – Photo by Malak for Cover of Family Herald in support of War Bonds. Photo courtesy of Diane (Miller) Duncan.

The McEwen clan in Ferguson Falls was another family who made their mark in the maple syrup business back in the 60s. In 1966 Robert McEwen of Prestonvale opened up the first pancake house in the area. Originally, Robert made his syrup the old fashioned way, out in the bush, and boiled a cauldron of sap over the fire. Later, in the 1970s I remember that he was one of the first to use plastic pipelines to bring the sap from the trees to one main location. Our Dad knew the McEwen family well, having grown up in that area, and said that Robert often spoke of the difficulties involved in syrup production. It was difficult to find reliable labour, and also challenging was finding the capital to purchase new equipment. Robert was very active in the local industry, and at one time was the President of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Association.

When the former McEwen Sugar Shack went up for sale, Charles Temple and his wife Susan Snyder bought the property –  the very first day it was on the market.  The property known now as Temple’s Sugar Bush consists of 70 acres of maple bush where 5,000 trees are tapped annually.

Temples

Temple’s Sugar Bush on the site of the former McEwen’s Sugar Shack, Ferguson Falls

…..

Ken VanAlstine in Maberly tapped over 2,000 trees when I was a kid, and he was among the first to use pipelines. He experimented at first, and tapped just 200 trees using the pipeline system, but the rest was collected in buckets, the traditional way, and transported to the evaporator by horse and sleigh.

Horse and Sleigh maple bush

Ken, like other producers in the area, found the cost of hiring labour prohibitive, and found that distributors wanted too much money per gallon. Ken was well known in the area for his excellent quality maple syrup, and said on his best day at that time he gathered 3,300 gallons of sap.

Vanalstine maple syrup

…..

The Ennis family also has a long history of maple production. Their ancestor  Arthur Ennis came from County Cavan, Ireland to Lanark County in 1840, and the family has been producing maple syrup for almost a century.  Their sugar bush is located on the eastern shores of Bennett Lake, at the end of Ennis Road, Balderson,  in Lanark County.   Five generations of the Ennis family have been tapping trees on this property.

Ennis maple

George and Karen Ennis  –   photo –  Ennis Maple Products

Another local family of long-time maple producers is the Adam family of McDonald’s Corners. Leonard Adam and his brother Tom tapped an average of 2,250 trees, and owned about 500 acres of land between them. They were hard workers, and spent many days sawing, chopping, and stacking the 20 cords of wood required for their evaporator.  The Adam family were one of the first to use a brand new style of evaporator which was 4 by 14 feet. They produced enough to sell locally, and the remainder was shipped out West.

Adam article maple

Adam family of McDonald’s Corners  –  ‘The Perth Courier’ – Nov. 28, 1963

maple syrup jug

Brien and Marion (McLaren) Paul of R.R #3 Lanark owned a 575 acre farm, about three miles west of Hopetown, and began maple production in 1953. Marion was raised on a farm near the village of Lanark, was known locally as the ‘First Lady of Maple’, and served proudly as a Maple Judge at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Their kids Kathy, Wayne and Darrell were also very involved in maple production, and provided additional labour for the family business. In 1972 Kathy was crowned Maple Queen in the local competition.

Back in the 1960s the Paul family used two sleighs, one pulled by a tractor, and the other by a team of horses. Brien’s father Raymond Paul often tended the evaporator, keeping a watchful eye as the sweet, fragrant, steam boiled off into the air. Russell Foster and Raymond Watt often assisted the Paul family with their  production. They tapped an average of 4,000 trees at that time, produced about 700 gallons of syrup, and used approximately 30 cords of wood during the season.

Paul's maple prices rise

‘The Perth Courier’ – March 21, 1971

The Paul’s were pioneers in the maple industry, and were very modern in their approach. They were one of the first to install plastic tubing, and an oil fired evaporator. The plastic pipes were attached to the tree spiles, and the sap flowed through the pipes, and emptied into a storage reservoir located behind the evaporator. Brien and Marion were inducted into the International Maple Hall of Fame, and were proud members of the Ontario Maple Producers and the Lanark and District Maple Producers Association.

Paul's maple

…..

Gibson was a name known for their excellent syrup. James ‘Carman’ Gibson, and his wife Edna (Rodger) had a maple business in Dalhousie Twp at R.R. # 4, Lanark. The nearby areas of Hoods and Poland were well known for their fine quality maple syrup. The Gibson family began tapping trees in 1821 with the arrival of James Gibson from Lanark, Scotland. He was the first pioneer settler in the area, and named their new home Lammermoor after the Lammermoor Hills in Scotland. Their five children Verna, Beatrice, Norma, Carol and Earl helped with the operation. The Gibson family also raised beef, dairy on their busy farm, and hauled milk to the Middleville cheese factory.

…..

When locals think of a long running maple operation, the name Dodds comes to mind. They had a substantial sugar bush at R.R. 2 Clayton, in the Lanark Highlands. The Dodds family has owned Springdale Farm for generations, producing maple syrup since 1917, and Don and Marion Dodds, and their sons Bryan and Stephen helped with production through the years. The family has won many awards for being long term maple producers, and Stephen Dodds won the Grand Champion Trophy at Perth Festival of the Maples in 2011. Their long, long, list of awards include trophies for World Champion Maple Syrup, Sugar Maker of the Year, and a memorable meeting with HRH Prince Charles at the Royal Winter Fair.

Dodds family

Dodds family – Don, Marion and Stephen Dodds

…..

One of the maple syrup families that I remember fondly was the Coutts family on the Rideau Ferry Road. I’ll never forget how George Coutts invited local kids to visit his sugar shack.  He would take the time during the very busy season to patiently explain how the maple syrup was made. Miss Norma Devlin from the North Elmsley School was invited each year to bring her grade one class to visit the Coutts farm. George along with his son Kenneth showed the children how syrup was made and even provided the kids with some maple taffy at the end of the tour.

Coutts student tours

In the 1960s the Coutts family tapped about 1,300 trees yearly, and produced more than enough syrup for both the family and for area sales. Maple syrup was produced in the early 1900’s by Archibald Coutts. In 1920, George Coutts purchased an evaporator, and the production of maple syrup has continued ever since.

coutts country flavours

Coutts Country Flavours – 5th generation maple producers

The ancestors of the Fulton family began to tap their maple trees back in the 1840s when John Fulton and his brothers came to Lanark County from East Kilbride, Scotland.  Their large 370 acre farm is located between Almonte and Pakenham, and they have tapped their huge 4,000 tree sugar bush for many, many, generations. Well known for their high quality syrup they have also operated a pancake house for many years, and their sugar camp has been a popular attraction for both area families and visitors.

Shirley Deugo and Scott Deugo of Fulton's

Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush –
Shirley Fulton-Deugo 4th generation, and Scott Deugo 5th generation maple producer

With these, and other long-time maple producers in Lanark County, it’s not surprising that back in the 1970s, there were lots of conversations, up and down the concessions, of hosting a maple festival in the town of Perth. It was Victor ‘Vic’ Lemieux, owner of Norvic Lodge, at Christie Lake, who first came up with the idea, and presented it to the Perth Chamber of Commerce. Thankfully, Vic was successful in his campaign to launch the first festival, with the hope that it would bring people out to celebrate the spring season, after a long, cold, winter.

First festival of the Maples 1975

On April 19, 1975 the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth and it was quite an event!

When my friends and I arrived at the very first Maple Festival that Saturday so long ago, part of Gore Street and Foster Street had been closed to traffic, and many local maple vendors had set up their displays. At 10 a.m. the Festival was officially opened by the Ontario Minister of Industry – Claude Bennett. The Perth Legion ladies, and the ladies from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church had displays of delicious home baking for sale, and there were also side-walk sales on Gore Street, and many arts and craft exhibits.

There were a tremendous number of district producers, and many of them offered syrup for sale in different grades, and various sized containers. Pancakes were available for purchase, and free samples of Balderson Cheese were available to anyone who asked, and I recall we went back a couple of times to that booth! One of the most unique displays was a wood-burning evaporator set up on one of the main streets of Perth. I’ve seen a few of those out in the bush, but I never thought I’d see one in town on the main street!

Fiddling and step-dancing competitions were held that day, and I recall Dawson Girdwood saying that some of the best fiddlers from Eastern Ontario were competing in the Open and Junior fiddling classes. The talented Jimmy Heney, one of our neighbours, won the fiddling prize hands down, as he often did, and Karen Grey of Perth was the top step-dancer that night.

The folks in Perth were always  enthusiastic supporters of a beauty competition, and so part of the evening program, at the arena that night ,was the crowning of ‘The Sweetest Girl in Lanark County’. Miss Perth 1975 Michelle Hughes crowned the winner – Maple Queen – Susan Thompson, of Perth.

Over the years, we attended the Perth Maple Festival, and each spring it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Every year it seemed that there were more vendors selling their maple goods, more artisans displaying their crafts, and an increasing number of booths and displays. We also noticed a steady stream of tourists coming from Ottawa, Kingston, and even as far away as the States to visit our festival.

festival of the maples crowd

People in Lanark County, understandably, have always taken their maple syrup very seriously. Because of this, it was devastating to many when January of 1998 brought the most destructive ice storm in Canadian history. From January 4th to 10th Lanark County was severely affected by freezing rain, and ice pellets.   Day after day it fell, and accumulated on tree branches, bending their limbs until they snapped off with the weight of the ice. The relentless freezing rain created a thick, heavy coat, damaging both the maple trees and the pipelines in the sugar bushes. Millions of tree branches were caked with the build-up of ice, and became so heavy that they split right off of the trees; severely affecting the sap flow. At the time, there were speculations that it might take forty years for maple production to return to normal.

Through hard work, and good fortune, many of the damaged trees came back, and the maple production resumed within a few years of the ice storm.

ice storm 1998

Many of us, raised in Lanark County, have participated in making maple syrup at one time or another, and know from experience that it’s extremely labour-intensive. We also have a clear understanding of the enormous amount of sap it takes to make a very small quantity of syrup. No matter how modern the equipment or methods, it still takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

40 gallons of sap

Now, add in the hours of labour for the tapping, transporting from the tree to the evaporator, the boiling down, the straining, the bottling, and the labeling. Next, factor in the cost of equipment such as the spiles, the pails or tubing, the evaporation tank, fuel, the straining equipment, the bottles, cans, and cost of transporting to market. The price per gallon really doesn’t sound like all that much anymore now, does it?

So, the next time you pass by the maple syrup display in your grocery store aisles, or visit a maple vendor at his farm, or at a festival, please remember how it’s produced.

Pause a moment, to remember the proud, hard-working, pioneer families who settled in Lanark County, and passed down their knowledge through the generations. Think of the enormous quantity of sap required to make a very small container of syrup. Most of all, please stop and consider the origin of your syrup, and take it from this Lanark County kid – you won’t find any better, more flavourful syrup, than from the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario!

…………..

 

(an excerpt from “Lanark County Chronicle: Double-Back to the Third LineLanark County Chronicle)
ISBN 978-0-9877026-2-3

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Festival of the Maples

Festival of the Maples Poster for article

With over 160 vendors, live entertainment, and the finest tasting maple syrup produced in the world, the Festival of the Maples in Perth is the place to be on Saturday, April 30th, 2016!

You may not know that Lanark County is the maple syrup capital of Ontario, and you may not know some of the history leading up to the very first festival that was held back in the 1970s.

The story that follows is dedicated to the Lanark County families who played such a significant role, back in the early days, leading up to this annual festival in Perth: Andrew and George Korry, Bowes family of Glen Tay, Ernie and Evelyn Miller family of Glen Tay, Robert McEwen of Prestonvale, Ken VanAlstine of Maberly, Leonard and Tom Adam of McDonald’s Corners, Brien and Marion Paul west of Hopetown, Lanark, James ‘Carman’ and Edna Gibson of Dalhousie Township, Don and Marion Dodds of Clayton, George Coutts of Rideau Ferry, Wheeler family of McDonald’s Corners, and Fulton family of Pakenham to name a few.

Taffy on the Tay

Years ago, many of the local farmers produced maple syrup. Some just made enough for their families and for some it was a supplement to their farm income at a time of year that was less busy than during the summer months. There were also a few dealers in the area that sold sugar bush supplies – Max Miller of Snow Road, Percy Drysdale of McDonald’s Corners, and W.J. Ballantyne in Lanark. James Brothers Hardware and the Co-Op also sold supplies for maple production. Labels for the bottles were often printed by ‘The Perth Courier’.

The Korry family across the road from us had a medium sized sugar bush and they produced not just enough for the family, but enough to sell locally. Andrew’s son-in-law John Chaplin sold it through his dairy to the local customers on the milk routes. Andrew Korry and his son George spent a few very busy weeks making syrup each spring and my brother Tim worked with them in the bush one year. They used a team of horses with a tank mounted on the sleigh to draw the sap back to the evaporator at the sugar shack; typical of many other producers at that time.

The Bowes and the Miller families near Glen Tay also produced their own syrup. I remember that Art Bowes used to tap quite a number of trees in the mid-sixties. Their farm was known as Tayview farm and it straddled the Tay River and was very picturesque. At that time they had about 300 acres which included hay fields, pastures and of course maple bushes. His son Doug was on our school bus and he used to talk about helping his Dad back in the bush each spring.

The Miller family’s farm, known as Tayside was owned by Ernest ‘Ernie’ Miller and his wife Evelyn (Mather). The Miller family arrived from Scotland in 1809 and their farm was purchased by Ernie’s great grandfather Dodds in 1858. Their kids were Diane, Nancy, John and Ruth. Evelyn was a lovely, soft-spoken lady and she was my first 4H club leader. I also remember that Ernie was tapping about 1,500 trees back in the sixties and had about 30 acres of maple woods. Ernie was a forward thinker and one of his ideas at that time was that sap should be gathered by trucks from each farm and taken to a large central evaporator – similar to the way that milk was trucked to cheese factories. It seemed through the years that Ernie was into everything. When he wasn’t farming he wrote history books, he researched genealogy, he worked with young people and it was no surprise to me when he was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.

The McEwen clan in Ferguson Falls was another family who made their mark in the maple syrup business back in the 60s. In 1966 Robert McEwen of Prestonvale opened up the first pancake house in the area. Originally, Robert made his syrup the old fashioned way out in the bush and boiled a cauldron of sap over the fire. Later, in the 1970s I remember that he was one of the first to use plastic pipelines to bring the sap from the trees to one main location. Dad knew the McEwen family well, having grown up in that area and said that Robert often spoke of the difficulties involved in syrup production. There were always problems like getting reliable labour and often the lack of capital to purchase new equipment. Robert was very active in the local industry and at one time was the President of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Association.

Ken VanAlstine in Maberly had over 2,000 trees tapped when I was a kid and he was among the first to use pipelines. He experimented at first and tapped just 200 trees using the pipeline system but the rest was collected in buckets the traditional way and transported to the evaporator by horse and sleigh.

Ken, like other producers in the area found the cost of hiring labour prohibitive and that distributers wanted too much money per gallon. Ken was well known in the area for his excellent quality maple syrup and said on his best day at that time he gathered 3,300 gallons of sap.

Another local family of producers was the Adam family of McDonald’s Corners. Leonard Adam and his brother Tom tapped an average of 2,250 trees and had about 500 acres of land between them. They were hard workers and spent many days sawing, chopping and stacking the 20 cords of wood required for their evaporator and were one of the first to use a brand new style of evaporator which was 4 by 14 feet. They produced enough to sell locally and the remainder was shipped out West.

Brien and Marion (McLaren) Paul of R.R #3 Lanark had a 575 acre farm about three miles west of Hopetown and began maple production in 1953. Marion was raised on a farm near the village of Lanark, was known locally as the ‘First Lady of Maple’ and became a maple judge at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Their kids Kathy, Wayne and Darrell were also very involved and provided additional labour for the family business. In 1972 Kathy was even crowned Maple Queen in the local competition.

Back in the 1960s they used two sleighs, one pulled by a tractor and the other by a team of horses. Brien’s father Raymond Paul often tended the evaporator, keeping a watchful eye as the steam boiled off into the air. Russell Foster and Raymond Watt often assisted the Paul family with the production. They tapped an average of 4,000 trees at that time and produced about 700 gallons of syrup and used approximately 30 cords of wood during the season.

The Paul’s were pioneers in the maple industry and were very modern in their approach. They were one of the first to install plastic tubing and an oil fired evaporator. The plastic pipes were attached to the tree spiles and the sap flowed through the pipes and emptied into a storage reservoir located behind the evaporator. Brien and Marion were inducted into the International Maple Hall of Fame and were members of the Ontario Maple Producers and the Lanark and District Maple Producers Association.

Gibson was a name known for their excellent syrup. James ‘Carman’ Gibson and his wife Edna (Rodger) had a maple business in Dalhousie Twp at R.R. # 4, Lanark. The nearby areas of Hoods and Poland were also known for their fine quality maple syrup. The Gibson family began tapping trees in 1821 with the arrival of James Gibson from Lanark, Scotland. He was the first pioneer settler in the area and named their new home Lammermoor after the Lammermoor Hills in Scotland. Their five children Verna, Beatrice, Norma, Carol and Earl all helped out with the operation. They also raised beef, dairy on their busy farm and hauled milk to the Middleville cheese factory.

When locals think of a long running maple operation, the name Dodds comes to mind. They had a substantial sugar bush at R.R. 2 Clayton in the Lanark Highlands. The Dodds family has owned Springdale Farm for generations and Don and Marion Dodds and their sons Bryan and Stephen helped with production through the years. The family has won many awards for being long term maple producers and as recently as last year Stephen Dodds won Grand Champion Trophy at Perth Festival of the Maples for 2011. Their long, long, list of awards include trophies for World Champion Maple Syrup, Sugar Maker of the Year, and a meeting with HRH Prince Charles at the Royal Winter Fair.

One of the maple syrup families that I remember fondly was the Coutts family on the Rideau Ferry Road. I’ll never forget how George Coutts used to invite the local kids to visit his sugar shack and he would take the time to patiently explain how the maple syrup was made. Miss Norma Devlin from the North Elmsley School was invited each year to bring her grade one class to visit the Coutts farm. George along with his son Kenneth showed the children how syrup was made and even provided the kids with some maple taffy at the end of the tour. At that time the Coutts family was tapping about 1,300 trees and produced more than enough syrup for both the family and for area sales.

The ancestors of the current Fulton family began to tap their maple trees back in the 1840s. Their large 370 acre farm is located between Almonte and Pakenham and they have tapped their huge 4,000 tree sugar bush for generations. Well known for their high quality syrup they have also operated a pancake house for many years and their sugar camp has been a popular attraction for both area families and visitors.

With these and so many other excellent producers in Lanark County, it’s not surprising that back in the 1970s there were talks of having a maple festival in the town of Perth. It was Vic Lemieux, owner of Norvic Lodge at Christie Lake, who first came up with the idea and presented it to the Perth Chamber of Commerce. Vic was successful in his campaign to launch the first festival, with the hopes that it would bring people out to celebrate the spring season after a long, cold, winter.

On April 19, 1975 the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth and it was quite an event!

When we arrived at the Festival that Saturday, they had closed part of Gore Street and Foster Street and the local maple vendors had set up their displays. At 10 a.m. the Festival was officially opened by the Ontario Minister of Industry Claude Bennett. The Legion ladies and the ladies from St. Andrew’s church had home baking for sale, and there were also side-walk sales on Gore Street and many arts and craft exhibits.

There were a tremendous number of district producers and many of them offered syrup for sale in various sized containers. Pancakes were available for purchase and free samples of Balderson cheese were given away and I recall we went back a couple of times to that booth! One of the oddest things was to see a wood burning evaporator set up on one of the main streets of Perth. I’ve seen a few of those out in the bush, but I never thought I’d see one in town!

Fiddling and step-dancing competitions were held that year and I remember Dawson Girdwood saying that some of the best fiddlers from Eastern Ontario were competing in the open and junior fiddling classes. Jimmy Heney, one of our neighbours won the fiddling prize hands down, as he often did and Karen Grey of Perth was the top step-dancer that night.

The folks in Perth were always up for a good beauty competition and so part of the evening program at the arena that night was the crowning of ‘The Sweetest Girl in Lanark County’. Miss Perth 1975 Michelle Hughes crowned the winner, Maple Queen Susan Thompson of Perth.

Over the years we always attended the Festival and each spring it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Every year it seemed that there were more vendors selling their maple goods, more artisans displaying their crafts and an increasing number of booths and displays. We also noticed a steady growth of tourists who had come from Ottawa, Kingston and even as far away as the States to visit.

People in Lanark County, understandably, have always taken their maple syrup very seriously. Because of this, it was devastating to many when January of 1998 brought the most destructive ice storm in Canadian history. From January 4th to 10th Lanark County was severely affected by freezing rain and ice pellets that fell and accumulated on tree branches day after day. This ice created a thick, heavy coat, damaging both the maple trees and the pipelines in the sugar bushes. Millions of tree branches were caked with the build-up of ice and became so heavy that they split right off of the trees; severely affecting the sap flow. At the time, there were speculations that it could take forty years for production to return to normal.

Many of us, have participated in making maple syrup at one time or another and know from experience that it’s extremely labour-intensive. We also have a clear understanding of the enormous amount of sap it takes to make a very small quantity of syrup. No matter how modern the equipment or methods, it still takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Now, add in the hours of labour for the tapping, transporting from the tree to the evaporator, the boiling down, the straining, the bottling and the labeling. Next, factor in the cost of equipment such as the spiles, the pails or tubing, the evaporation tank, fuel, the straining equipment, the bottles, cans and cost of transporting to market. Fifty dollars a gallon really doesn’t sound like all that much anymore now, does it?

So, the next time you pass by the maple syrup display in the grocery store aisles, or visit a maple vendor at his farm or at a festival, please remember how it’s produced. Remember the proud, hard-working families who settled in Lanark County and passed down their knowledge through the generations. Think of the enormous quantity of sap required to make a very small container of syrup. Most of all please stop and consider the origin of your syrup and take it from this Lanark County kid – you won’t find any better, more flavourful syrup, than from the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario.

(an excerpt from “Lanark County Chronicle: Double-Back to the Third Line”,
ISBN 978-0-9877026-2-3 , available at local book stores)

http://www.staffordwilson.com